Uganda loses over Shs 16 billion per month in rent collected from the departed Asian properties across different cities and towns in the country.
A racket of faceless fraudsters is conniving with persons of influence to perpetuate this fraud.
In this investigation, VICTORIA BAGAAYA lifts the veil off the ghost landlords.
Notice: Plot 1 Dewinton road. Executive office. To let.
Have you ever paid attention to such scribbles?
Plot 1 is a property of government under the Custodian Board. But some anonymous landlord is collecting rent from these tenants.
I will break this down for you, I have for over six months been keenly following this matter and the findings are alarming!
In 2019, The tenants here dragged their unknown landlord to court over illegal collection of rent and court halted him or her from the collection.
“We didn’t know who to pay to, the management was demanding for money so we could not pay two entities so we didn’t know who the true owner of the building was,” said one of the tenants, speaking anonymously.
“Kassam Mumtaz wanted us to pay rent for us we are saying since the building is in a bad condition we don’t know who is responsible however the agent is saying but still we wanted to see the landlord.”
On November 3, 2020, a man who claims to be a representative of this unseen landlord moves in flanked by the police with an eviction order. This is despite the previous court order that the landlord deferred.
“A lot of money was taken from my safe and up to now I have no access to my money. There’s a lot of property that has been taken, computers, weighing scales, furniture, fridges dispenser machines,” the tenant said.
“They took titles, safes, they took land machines, so many things, they were not noted down in fact it’s the l.c who has to note them down.”
This team of frustrated tenants still question the manner in which their property is taken.
Their property was put up for auction, an auction they say badly undervalued it. They claim most items taken were actually never listed.
All the items taken in the raid were valued at Shs 4 million.
“We are just getting a funny list which is like a template. We all have the same items confiscated and now they are ready for auctioning,” the tenant said.
“We saw a change in our receipts, previously it was M. Kasamali [who used to sign the receipts] and when those issues started it changed to Mumtaz and property management so we then received our queries.”
By this time in the investigation we know of two names, Aggrey Muhwezi, and Kassam Mumtaz. These two are now on our to-do list and we set out to investigate further.
Who are they and where they could be?
Dr Abdu Byakatonda, the chairperson of the Custodian Board said Kassam is a government employees.
He said she is the deputy ambassador in Rome and she has visited Custodian Board on a number of occasions.
Kassam Property Consultants Limited have managed property at plot 1 Dewinton since 1973, and are believed to have collected rent for now over 15 years.
This is quite a long time to work in isolation.
This now raises more questions about this “ghost landlord” he or she seems powerful and high up in the ranking.
Even when the parliamentary Committee on Statutory Agencies and State Enterprises (COSASE) invited this landlord during its investigations last year, no one showed up.
“We’ve invited Dr Mumtaz several times to appear before the committee but he has intentionally refused to appear you know she is the deputy ambassador, I think he would have respected his position and the country,” said Kasozi, the chairperson of COSASE.
Aggrey Muhwezi, is the manager of the Kassam Property Consult Limited.
We ran a fact check on him and the findings are even more disturbing.
According to the URA portal it only effected VAT payment on 1st March 2018, despite the landlord collecting rent since 1973.
According to the Uganda registration services bureau, Aggrey Muhwezi was registered as the secretary to Kassam Properties Limited in 2018.
And this is under the directors Mumtaz Kassam and Mushin Mumtaz.
In 1972, President Idi Amin forced over 50,000 Asians to leave the country accusing them of milking Uganda’s economy.
At the time, they owned 90% of the country’s businesses and accounted for 90% of Ugandan tax revenues.
They therefore left behind a lot of property including buildings across the country.
SAME SCRIPT, DIFFERENT CAST
In Soroti district, it’s a similar script but a different cast.
A one Muhammad Alibhai made headlines in June 11th 2020. He is believed to own multiple properties.
Alibhai has 700 land titles that he has repossessed and allegedly owns the powers of attorney.
Martin Obonyo claims that Alibhai stole one of his properties: Plot 32 Gwere road in the centre of Soroti city.
The property has been at the centre of controversy for 10 years now.
“I bought the property and now it’s gone. For ten years,” Obonyo said.
“The man Alibhai claimed to have died was still alive up to now he is 93 years old, his name is Bachu Bangi.”
Byakatonda, the chairperson of the Custodian Board said there are many cases of such nature.
“You find that there was a gang which has been identified, they could be picked in Nairobi and say I am Patel but when you investigate you find that he is a fraudster,” he said.
Alibhai was also summoned by COSASE but he shunned the committee.
“We’ve been made to know that there’s some general here in Uganda who is protecting him. We know him, but what we know this Indian maybe hiding could even be at his home,” Obonyo claimed.
Kasozi, the chairperson of COSASE said powerful persons are protecting Alibhai.
What is happening in Soroti is just a replica’ of what is happening in several other country towns like Mbale, Jinja and Masaka.
Yet the question is: Who will apprehend these so called ghost landlords?